Planes and Things

sam26000_extOn Friday, November 22, 2013, a friend and I visited the National Museum of the US Air Force near Dayton, Ohio. Among the many historic items on display is the Boeing VC-137C that carried John F Kennedy to and from Dallas, Texas. The two pictures below were taken of the same general area of the plane just a few hours shy of fifty years apart.

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drgobs-2drgobs-1Another museum display recently in the news is associated with the Doolittle Raiders. A “Last Man Standing” pact had been established in which the last surviving Raider would drink a toast to all those who had gone before him.On the most recent anniversary of their 1942 bombing run over Toyko, the last four living Raiders decided not to wait but to have their final public reunion and drink their toast now. That toast took place at the museum on November 9 and can be seen here. Their eighty silver goblets, with the seventy-six belonging to diseased Raiders standing up side down, are displayed at the museum. My report on last year’s 70th reunion is here.

Half Century Gone

Kennedy official photoOn this day fifty years ago I was a high school junior. I do not even remember most of the day and some that I do remember is foggy and questionable. I remember some very small pieces all too well. I remember going to my chemistry class and taking a seat in the second or third row. It was the rightmost seat facing the teacher’s desk and the wall of blackboards. My memory is that the principal, Mr Pawlowski, entered before class actually started and gave us the news though it might have come from Mr Conrad, the instructor. In my memory, Mr Pawlowski quickly moved on to personally deliver his message in other classrooms so that every student heard the same version. It is logical and might indicate how important he thought the message — and its uniform delivery — was but I cannot be certain that my memory is accurate. The message was, of course, “The President has been shot.”

The remainder of the school day is blurred. I believe that no more classes were held and I have a vague memory that students who walked to school were allowed to leave. Maybe we all were. I’m fairly confident that I drove to school that day. I was sixteen with a car and a driver’s license. What else would I do? I do remember that by the time I left school, whenever and however that occurred, the message was no longer that the President had been shot; By then we knew that the President was dead.

The time between hearing that the President was shot and learning for certain that he was dead could not have been long. Other points of uncertainty were not so easily or quickly resolved. Who did it? Was the country under attack? Were we, in our tiny Ohio town far from both Dallas and D.C., safe? With the exception that New York replaced Dallas, those are the exact same questions I had on a September morning nearly thirty-eight years later. The world in which the terrorist attacks of 2001 took place was not, however, at all the same as the world of 1963.

The basement of the school building in which I heard the news had sealed containers of “rations” stacked along the walls. With their Civil Defense markings, they were visible reminders that this was a designated fallout shelter. The first anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis was not even a month in the past. I recall learning, only a couple of years before, a new prefix: mega. I didn’t need it to discuss megapixels, or megabaud, or even megabytes. I needed it to try to comprehend the power, in megatons of TNT, of hydrogen bombs being tested in the friggin’ atmosphere. The Cold War was not as nebulous as the War on Terror and I think it was somewhat scarier. Has there ever been a more accurate acronym than the one referring to Mutual Assured Destruction?

I do have some memories of the evening. A buddy and I went driving around because that’s what sixteen year old boys with cars did. The world was closed. Games and dances were canceled; Restaurants shut down. The buddy had a little battery powered tape recorder. This was well before cassettes or even 8-tracks. It used very small reels. It was pretty much a toy which we used to make Dickie Goodman style “break-in” recordings that were even worse than the ones Goodman did. That night, as we drove through the one city (1960 population 10,585) and some of the small towns in the county, we made comments and observations into the recorder. It is long gone, of course, but I’ve often thought of just how interesting it would be to listen to that tape today. It might offer a unique look at rural Ohio on the night of the assassination or it might just be filled with stuff like “Holy cow!. Even Frisch’s is closed.”

The weird uneasiness continued through the weekend as facts and rumors tumbled out. Lee Oswald was arrested. The shooting of a cop, J D Tippit, was somehow related but it was not at all clear how. Then Oswald was shot and things got even more confusing. I’ve convinced myself that I watched Jack Ruby gun down Oswald on live TV but the scene was shown so many times I can’t be sure. Two things helped; The eventual realization that the office of President of the United States had been transferred just like the rule book said and the fact that Walter Cronkite was in the newsroom. I think it a pretty safe bet that I’ll never trust any one the way I trusted Walter.

Ansonia High School 1964 yearbookPresident John F Kennedy was officially pronounced dead at 1:00 PM CST; The same time as the posting of this article. The scan at left is of an introductory page of my high school’s 1964 yearbook. I imagine something similar appeared in the yearbooks of thousands of schools across the country. I believe the picture is a closely cropped version, with the background removed, of the official one at the beginning of this article.

Book Review
Fallen Timbers 1794
John F Winkler

Fallen Timbers coverEveryone loves a winner and, in 1794, the United States Army finally became one. In his earlier work, Wabash 1791, Winkler tells of the new nation’s first military campaign and the disaster that resulted. Fallen Timbers 1794, describes the campaign that led to a victory at Fallen Timbers and ultimately to the Treaty of Greenville.

The 1791 Battle of the Wabash, more commonly known as St Clair’s Defeat, essentially destroyed the United States Army. In 1792, congress created a new one. To lead this new army, The Legion of the United States of America, President Washington chose Revolutionary War veteran Anthony Wayne. Wayne did things quite a bit differently than did St Clair. He made sure his troops were trained and equipped before setting out and he placed a series of defensible forts so as to protect his supply line. Perhaps more importantly, he understood the Indian methods of combat and devised tactics to counter them. Like St Clair, Wayne had difficulties with supplies and contractors but it seems that now it was not only greed and incompetence that fueled them but an actual conspiracy aimed at causing his failure.

As he did in Wabash 1791, Winkler sets the scene for the campaign by describing the “strategic situation” and with chapters on the opposing commanders, armies, and plans. In many respects, the world situation was still much like it was in 1791. The United States was only a few years older and only a tiny bit more stable. Britain’s support and encouragement of the natives may have actually increased and neither France not Spain had vanished from North America. In fact, French elements were very much at play, often for the worse, inside the young nation. Of course, there were also plenty of homegrown problems. That previously mentioned conspiracy was one of them and, in the westernmost reaches, open revolt was a real possibility. These were the days of the Whiskey Rebellion. Less than three weeks before the Battle of Fallen Timbers, a crowd of 7,000 threatened to march on Pittsburgh. It was less than two months after the battle that President Washington personally went into the field to put down the uprising.

Three dimensional maps, like those that helped in understanding the Battle of Wabash, do the same for the Battle of Fallen Timbers. Other maps, along with period portraits and modern photographs, help understand the people and places involved. Peter Dennis’ wonderful paintings, one of which is used for the cover, provide realistic visualizations of specific battle scenes.

Winkler’s book on the Battle of the Wabash had nowhere near the shortcomings of the battle it described but he did manage to improve on it a little with Fallen Timbers 1794. I resorted to the word “scholarly” in describing the front end of Wabash 1791. It was justified, I offered, because it presented a lot of information that made later portions of the book flow more smoothly. But in this latest book, I never did get the feeling of slogging through mounds of dry facts that I had before. I have no way to quantify this and it may be simply that less preliminary facts are required or that they are less dry or that I am better prepared. Any or all of those could be true but my gut feel is that Winkler has refined his language and maybe even the structure to produce something more easily read.

During the last few years, any time that the average person felt like devoting to history was spent, more than likely, on the Civil War sesquicentennial. I have absolutely no disagreement with that but still thought it nice that, here and there, the bicentennial of the War of 1812 got some attention. The territory in dispute in 1812 was not all that different than what was being fought over in 1791 and 1794. Some of the nations and even some of the individuals involved were the very same. To the War of 1812 and especially to the Battle of the Thames, the battles at Wabash and Fallen Timbers were “prequels”.

Fallen Timbers 1794: The US Army’s first victory, John F Winkler, Osprey Publishing, February 2013, paperback, 9.8 x 7.2 inches, 96 pages, ISBN 978-1780963754

One Last Flash

Flash coverThis Flash is not a fleet-footed tights-wearing superhero. It is, or was, a publication, though saying it was about superheros would not be wrong. The Flash‘s banner reads “A publication of the 78th (Lightning) Infantry Division Veterans Association dedicated to the preservation of the friendships established in 2 world wars”. The association is disbanding. There just aren’t that many friendships to preserve anymore.

There were 1542 members at last count; 1011 veterans and 531 associates. I was one of the associates. My dad had been a member. After his death in 2011,
I wrote to arrange my own associate membership and was warned that the association might only continue another year or so. It lasted for a bit more than two. The note that cautioned me about the possible end of the association mentioned a couple of reasons. One was obvious. At that time, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an average of 670 World War II veterans were dying every day. Another, though related, might not be so obvious. Veterans in the association ranged in age from 85 to 95. They remained very much in control of their association but recognized that increases in age are often accompanied by decreases in faculties. In the words of that note, “They want to decide what to do before they are no longer able to do that.” Just one more example of how “The Greatest Generation” doesn’t want to have someone else finish their business for them.

Dad never attended any of the reunions or other gatherings of the association but he “read” every copy of The Flash. Starting in the mid-1990s, I would bring home the issues he was done with and “read” them, too. We both went through the pages the way one does with a newspaper, scanning the headlines until something caught our eye. For Dad, it would probably be a place or a name he remembered. Increasingly, when he recognized a name it would be in an obituary or the “Taps” column. I looked for anything related to the 309 Field Artillery Battalion, Dad’s unit, but finding something was fairly rare. Mostly what I read were the remembrances that veterans or, as was also increasing the case, surviving family members, sent in. Sometimes it was a quickly written and possibly even jumbled memory of a single incident. Other times it was a longer memoir. Some were organized and well written, others not so much. But all were interesting. All were glimpses of real history that I felt privileged to read.

The Flash was not a glossy magazine. It was printed on newspaper like stock in black and white with just a touch of red on the front and back covers. It was well organized but not overly edited. Pretty much everything members sent in appeared in print. Even the last issue includes change of address letters mixed in with the obituaries, reports on recent happenings, requests for information on events of 70 years ago, and those remembrances that I look for. It was published quarterly although the final issue came out more than a year after the previous one. The June 2012 issue announced the planned dissolution and spoke of one more issue. When the end of 2012 came and went, I figured that was probably not to be. When the final issue did arrive, I was glad to see it and sad to read that this time it was  — officially — for real.

The final issue reported on the 68th Jonah Edward Kelley Award ceremony that took place in Keyser, West Virginia, in April. Kelley was the 78th’s only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and the Veterans Association has annually given the award and a $6000 scholarship to a graduating senior at his former high school. The Association’s remaining funds are being transferred to the Ed Kelley Scholarship Trust so that this practice can continue.

The Association’s website will also continue. There is an active group of 78th reenactors and two members of that group have taken on the work and expense of keeping the website, which includes a message board, alive at www.78thdivision.org, the same address it has always had. The website for the 78th Infantry Division WWII Living History Association is at www.78thinfantry.com.

5K: The Ventures Way

DAV 5K The Disabled American Veterans organization held a race Saturday. It was the inaugural running of what they called the National 5K Run/Walk/Roll/Ride. I first heard of it a few weeks ago when my friend, Dave, announced that he had signed up. Some people ran, some walked, some rolled on hand-cycles, and some rode motorcycles. Dave walked. So did I.

When the event came up in a conversation, Dave said something like “You ought to do it, too”. Then I said something like “Yeah, maybe” without really meaning it but the seed was planted. l’m a firm believer in the only-if-chased concept of running. There is absolutely no way I would ever consider running any farther than the last lane of a street crossing to avoid an approaching SUV on auto-pilot. But walking is a different story. I walk quite a bit. I’ve always done it on road trips where I will park the car and walk around a town or park or other attraction. This summer I’ve been doing more of it at home and even think I feel a little deprived on days when I don’t walk.

Five kilometers is about three miles; 3.106855961 to be be precise. I might walk that far a few times each week although there is usually a restaurant or bar somewhere near midpoint. I started to somewhat seriously consider doing the walk about the same time that another friend and I picked that day to take an underground Cincinnati tour we had been talking about for awhile. I assumed I couldn’t do both until a week or two later when I looked at the details. Start time for the “race” was 9:00; for the tour 1:00. That was plenty of time for even sluggish old me to finish the walk, which had awards scheduled for 10:45, and get to the tour.

DAV 5KSo I signed on. Dave and I were a little surprised by the size of the crowd when we arrived about a half hour before the start time. We later learned that the event had more than two thousand entrants. I registered late and in person and had picked up my stuff when I did. Dave had registered very early on line and was picking up his stuff today. An entrant’s stuff consisted of a long sleeve shirt, a “bib”, and four safety pins. The pins were to attach the numbered “bib”, with its attached timing chip, to the shirt. Shirts were black for veterans and white for civilians. Dave’s a Navy vet. I’m a civilian.

DAV 5KDAV 5KWe did not have long to wait until the starting gun went off and, presumably, the serious runners up front went dashing away. Eventually the more casual crowd near us started moving and we were off. We started fairly close to the back and by the first turn had managed to work our way even closer.

DAV 5KDAV 5KDAV 5KThere were several bands performing along the way and we were given water at strategic spots just like real runners. Near the end, we were even cheered and encouraged just like real runners. Dave was the target of extra cheering when some in the crowd recognized him as the model for a widely used street sign of which an example can be seen to his right.

DAV 5KWe crossed the finish line to the sound of bells and cheers from an enthusiastic group who had probably come near to dozing off during the lull that preceded us. Two bicycles had been the first to cross the line with times of 14:44 and 15:07. The first place runner had a time of 16:26. Dave and I finished 2019th & 2020th in an hour and twelve minutes. There were 2033 finishers so we were denied last place but we were close. On the other hand, we were only about 56 minutes out of first.

The cheering and applause even for old guys finishing in the 99th percentile is intended to make you feel like you accomplished something and it did. Both Dave and I have walked 5 kilometers many times so neither of us felt any great affirmation but we did feel good and it sure was fun. In years past I’ve attended parades and concerts and other events associated with Veterans Day (I even remember Armistice Day.) but this is the first time since being in the high school band that I have participated. Maybe I really did accomplish something after all.

dav5k2013ddfADDENDUM 07-Nov-15: Here is a picture from the DAV website of Dave and I crossing the finish line.

 

 


The “Ventures Way” is, of course, walking rather than running. The Ventures first drummer had left the band and was on his way to becoming a veteran before Walk Don’t Run was released but did get to perform it with them again a few years later as captured here.


Queen City Underground TourQueen City Underground TourQueen City Underground TourI made it to the tour in plenty of time and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was the “Queen City Underground Tour” from American Legacy Tours. Having done other tours of Cincinnati’s underground, I thought this might be something of a repeat but that was not so at all. Only the very last of the tour was familiar and by then we had been inside a 19th century tenement and an underground crypt and had been entertained and educated by a pair of knowledgeable guides. Plus, the familiar part led to the Christian Moerlein Tap Room which is hardly a bad thing.

Music Review
Acoustic
The Goshorn Brothers

Goshorn Brothers AcousticI thought I might never get this posted but I did it and it’s not even a year late. It’s close, though. The official release of Acoustic, which coincided with Larry Goshorn’s “retirement” party, was 349 days ago. I knew the CD was coming and intended to get a copy at the party, then, figuring I’d pick it up in the near future, opted not to stand in line. To be honest, I could have bought the CD without a hassle but I wanted it signed and for that there was a line and I really believed I’d catch the boys performing together in a couple of weeks. If I had known that wouldn’t happen for six months, I’d have stood in line.

I got my copy just days before leaving on a month long road trip so that, even though I really liked the album and knew what I wanted to say about it, I had no time. Then, when the trip was over, I had no… Well, I had no excuses. Yes, the main reason this review did not get done during the last four month is because I just kept putting it off each week. When it comes to crastination, I’m a pro.

It seems a curious coincidence that the last music review I did, in March, was for an acoustic album and some of the thoughts I had then are applicable here. That album was Dirk Hamilton’s solo mono. and, though it was recorded in a studio, it represented my personal experience with Dirk quite well. Dirk is best known for his work with a full band but that’s something I’ve never seen. With solo mono, I could hear Dirk at home the way I’ve heard him live.

Larry and Tim Goshorn are also best known for their work with a full band though that’s something I’ve seen a lot. From Larry’s early days with Sacred Mushroom, and the time both brothers spent with Pure Prairie League, through various incarnations of the Goshorn Brothers Band. But I’ve also heard them a lot as an acoustic duo. In recent years, seeing the brothers front a band became something of a special event; Something more likely to be at a festival or a concert than a club gig.

There were club gigs but most were, quite literally, Goshorn Brothers gigs rather than Goshorn Brothers Band gigs. I and plenty of other Cincinnati area music lovers have spent many enjoyable evenings in a small bar or restaurant listening to the two brothers trade off guitar and vocal leads and blend their voices in brotherly harmonies. It’s an experience that Acoustic captures pretty darned well but with very little crowd noise and no interruptions from the waiter.

There’s nothing new on the CD and I think that’s the point; To remind you of an evening you’ve enjoyed or reproduce part of a pleasant evening for someone who hasn’t experienced the real thing. Like a typical Goshorn Brothers set, the CD is heavy on originals with a few covers thrown in. Some of the tunes, like Tim’s Just Fly and Larry’s Kentucky Moonshine from their Pure Prairie League days, might very well be familiar even to those who haven’t seen the brothers performing in a local bar. Others, such as Devil’s Due, are more recent and less widely known. Devil’s Due is, to me, the CD’s standout track. It’s a catchy Larry Goshorn tune with some great lyrics and Tim’s excellent slide guitar sets it off perfectly.

Recording for the album took place over a few years in a several locations but rumor has it that most if not all of the tracks that made it to the CD are from the recently demolished Twenty Mile House. They all sound good. There is, as mentioned, little crowd noise; Essentially just some applause and cheering between tracks. These guys have been doing this a long time. They know how to get things sounding right for their live performances and this recording captures both voices and both guitars cleanly. “Just like the record”, Tim sometimes quips at the end of some familiar song. Acoustic is “just like the club” — without clinking glasses and the noisy couple at the next table.

Acoustic available at Everybody’s Records or a Goshorn performance.

Flying Pumpkins

Stanbery Park Pumpkin ChuckWhat a clever way to get people to learn a French word and a little bit of history. Use trebuchets to hurl pumpkins high into the air and explain that their original purpose was to attack castles in the Middle Ages. Then, as the French would also say, voilà! Old and young are suddenly using the word trebuchet as if they’ve always known it though, to be honest, not everyone remembers the Middle Ages castle stuff.

Stanbery Park Pumpkin ChuckStanbery Park Pumpkin ChuckSaturday was the 7th (or maybe 8th) Heads-Up Pumpkin Chuck at Stanbery Park in Mount Washington, a Cincinnati suburb. The event raises money to help maintain the park. People bring in no longer needed –or wanted — Halloween pumpkins and, with help from the “pros”, load them into the slings of the trebuchets, then pull a rope (bet the French say lanyard) to launch them into the air. All for three bucks.

Stanbery Park Pumpkin ChuckSome of the carved and less fresh specimens burst apart mid-flight like exploding cannon balls while others smash into the ground with a solid thunk before scattering themselves about. The Real Mary Peale from my favorite radio station, WNKU, did her show live from the park with microphones strategically placed to capture the sounds of both launch and landing.

Stanbery Park Pumpkin ChuckThe event had been promoted as being the 7th but that is definitely in question. In an on-air interview, one of the trebuchet builders and operators said “…7th, 8th, 9th, whatever…” and Mary subsequently referred to it as 7th or 8th. An outdated but still online announcement for the 2010 Chuck called it the 5th. The counting of individual pumpkins also appears to be a little loose. In another on-air interview, the Pumpkin Queen (pictured at left) said, near day’s end, that “over 400” pumpkins had been chucked. Many pumpkins in view had numbers in the 5, 6, and 7 hundred range. There are, of course, aspects to chuck scheduling that I cannot know.

Stanbery Park Pumpkin ChuckI believe that both of the big trebuchets are purpose built. One was completed about 1:30 AM on chuck day. The smaller one, which handles smaller pumpkins but gets as much distance as the biggies, is from a privateer. Its owner is an engineer at GE who brings it every year. There are just not that many places a guy can go to play with his trebuchet.

Au revoir.